The former leader of the Peruvian guerrilla organization Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) is dead. Abimael Guzmán died at the age of 86 in the maximum security prison on the Callao naval base, the prison administration announced on Saturday.

The former rebel leader's health had deteriorated over the past few months.

He hardly ate any more and was treated in the hospital for a while.

"The terrorist leader Abimael Guzmán, who is responsible for the loss of innumerable lives of our compatriots, is dead," wrote President Pedro Castillo on Twitter.

“Our condemnation of terrorism is firm and irrevocable.

Only in a democracy will we build a Peru of justice and development for our people. "

Almost 70,000 dead

Guzmán initially worked as a professor of philosophy at the University of Ayacucho in the 1960s.

He later went underground and founded the rebel organization Shining Path.

In 1992 he was arrested in Lima and sentenced to life imprisonment for terrorism.

In prison, he married the Shining Path deputy chief Elena Iparraguirre.

Between 1980 and 2000, almost 70,000 people were killed in clashes between Sendero Luminoso and state security forces.

In contrast to many other civil wars in the region, the guerrillas were responsible for a large part of the deaths in Peru.

Although the Shining Path pretended to stand up for the rural indigenous people, it was precisely against them that it acted with extreme brutality.

To save ammunition, the rebels used machetes in many massacres.

The Shining Path carried out numerous bomb attacks in the cities.

In the early 1990s, the guerrillas were active in half of Peruvian territory.

Today the remaining units of the Shining Path are devoted to drug trafficking.

They are particularly active in the valleys of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro (Vraem) rivers, where state institutions are poorly represented.

The area is an important growing area for the coca plant.

Besides Colombia and Bolivia, Peru is the largest cocaine producer in the world.

"The problem of terrorism is not the same as it used to be, now it is in the Vraem where we have remains, but it is closely linked to drug trafficking and what this area needs is the presence of the state in all sectors," said Defense Minister Walter Ayala.

As recently as May, alleged Shining Path fighters had killed 16 people in central Peru. "The greatest genocide in our history is dead, but not his gang of terror," wrote the mayor of the capital Lima, Jorge Muñoz, on Twitter. “He did not have enough time for the atrocities he committed. Today more than ever, the Peruvians must unite against the new attacks of nefarious radical madness. "